How to milk cash from yoghurt

Farmers in eastern Uganda are earning more money from yoghurt. Photo by Michael Kakumirizi

What you need to know:

When Harriet Atim of Soroti District made her first litre of yogurt in 2010, she was just experimenting on ways to reduce wastage of milk that could not get a buyer due to a nationwide surplus, writes Desire Mbabaali.

One of the milk products that are increasingly becoming visible on the market is yoghurt.
For yoghurt lovers and consumers, the product can almost be found in every supermarket and retail shop in different brands and flavours, quantities and prices.
This is partly indicative of the growing market for yoghurt.
Yoghurt contains live, active and ‘good’ bacteria that boosts the immune system prevents infections in the stomach.
When Harriet Atim of Soroti District made her first litre of yogurt in 2010, she was just experimenting on ways to reduce wastage of milk that could not get a buyer due to a nationwide glut.

As other farmers poured their milk, which was going to waste because they could not get buyers, Atim, found ways of ensuring that her 40 litres of milk that middlemen could not buy then did not go to waste.
She started selling the yogurt to students and neighbours and soon discovered that it was a good business.
Eight years later, the business that started with just 40 litres of milk in her kitchen has grown in the region with a sizeable market share in major towns.

About yoghurt
Nieke Westerik, the project coordinator of Yoba for Life and a master’s degree holder in Food Technology says, “Probiotic yoghurt is also a type of yoghurt that looks and tastes the same as normal regular yoghurt, but has additional benefits. It has a special type of bacteria described as ‘soldier bacteria’ that helps reduce diarrhoea, cough and flue, ulcers, skin rashes, breaks down aflatoxin, and enhances nutrient absorption by the body.”
When it comes to nutrition, notes that yoghurt is part of a nutritious diet, though some is more nutritious than the other depending on the calories, protein, fat and sugar content.
It also comes in different flavours of strawberry, vanilla, black berries, banana, chocolate, mango and plain unflavoured yoghurt – which is mostly recommended due to its low sugar content.
Some of the yoghurt products on the market include: Lato yoghurt, Fresh Dairy yoghurt, Jessa yoghurt, Milkman yoghurt, Mega yoghurt and Mama yoghurt.

Most of the yoghurt on the market is packed in small branded polythene bags of 450 grammes that cost between Shs2,000 and Shs2,500 depending on the brand of preference. The other packaging is done in plastic tins of different sizes, the smallest being around 170 grammes at Shs1,800, a medium sized tin of 250 grammes at Shs2,300 and 450 grammes between Shs3,800 and Shs4,000.
Norah Birungi, a supermarket attendant at Capital Shoppers supermarket – Kampala notes that people easily buy yoghurt packed in polythene because it is cheaper and one gets more quantity for less. In a conversation with Wilson Ogot the communications officer of Fresh Dairy, he said that the disparity in prices in relation to packaging is because plastic tins are more costly than the polythene bags.

Making yoghurt
So for a farmer with excess milk production this wet season, venturing into yoghurt production may be an option to consider. Additionally, it is cheap and easy to process.
According to Westerik, the following steps will help a farmer to process their yoghurt:
Wash all equipment that is going to be used, and rinse it with boiling water to kill all spoilage bacteria.
Take care of personal hygiene: wash hands, wear protective clothing and cover your hair.

The next step is to test the quality of the milk. This is done using a sensory test. With a sensory test you look at and directly smell the milk. You will be able to tell freshness of milk.
Using a Lactometer test: The lactometer should read a number of 28 or more.
The ethanol test: Mix equal amount of 80 per cent ethanol with an equal amount of milk and mix well. The mixture should be smooth (as opposed to starting to clot).

•The next step is pasteurisation:
Place a large saucepan half filled with water on a source of heat.
Heat the milk till 60 °C as is measured with a laboratory thermometer and add sugar.
Add ½ kilogramme of sugar per 10 litres of yoghurt. Continue heating up till 85 °C.
Reduce the heat, but do not remove the milk from the fire. Let it be on the fire while maintaining the temperature of 85 °C for 15 minutes.
So during these 15 minutes, it should not cool, but it should also not heat beyond 85 °C.

•Cooling the milk.
Remove the milk from the hot water bath, and place it in a cold water bath (for example a large bucket filled with cold water).
Cool until the milk is 45 °C. Add a yoghurt starter culture. (Each starter culture has measurements to follow).
Keep the milk warm for 12 hours.
Small volumes can be kept warm in a vacuum flask.
Large volumes of milk (a milk can) can be kept warm by wrapping it into a blanket.
After 12 hours, you can add flavour such as strawberry and vanilla in the recommended ratio of 1ml of flavour per litre of yoghurt and stir.

It can now be packaged.
Store the yoghurt in a fridge below 7 °C. Under these conditions, yoghurt has a shelf life of at least one month.

What kind of milk is good for yogurt?
“Milk should have a lactometer reading of 28 and above. The higher the lactometer reading, the thicker the yoghurt will become. Hence milk of local cows usually obtains thicker yoghurt,” Westerik says.
She adds that the products of the producers are tested in Uganda Industrial Research Institute lab (accredited by UNBS) to safeguard microbial safety of the products.